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Visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

 

Technically two parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are usually uttered in the same phrase because they are adjacent to each other and it makes sense to combine these two parks together for a trip if you are going all the way to one of the parks. 

 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks - Marble Falls

Why you should visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks ?

  • Sequoia trees including the world’s largest living tree – The General Sherman Tree.
  • Deep Canyons and snow-covered mountains.
  • Roaring rivers and alpine lakes 
  • Day-trip easy hikes, drive-through scenic byways, multi-day backpacking options
  • Crystal caves to granite rocks to climb
  • Summer lake access to ski/snowboard trails in the winter

This lesser known tandem parks pack a great deal of outdoor activities that will take your breath away. What more ? Much less crowded than the more popular Yosemite National Park. 

Location & Access:

  • ~4 hours drive from San Francisco city
  • 3.5 hours from San Jose Airport
  • Car is probably the only way to access the park. There are no bus or train access to the park.

Sequoia National Park Visitor Center:

  • Foothills Visitor Center

    • Open Year Around
    • Nearest Town: Three Rivers
    • Nearby Campsites: 
      • Potwisha Campground
      • Buckeye Flat Campground
      • South Fork Campground
  • Giant Forest Museum

    • Open Year Around
    • Nearest Town: Three Rivers
    • Nearby Campsites:
      • Lodgepole Campground
      • Dorst Creek Campground
  • Lodgepole Visitor Center

    • Seasonally open
    • Nearest Town: Three Rivers
    • Nearby Campsites:
      • Lodgepole Campground
      • Dorst Creek Campground
  • Mineral King Ranger Station

    • Seasonally open
    • Nearest Town: Mineral Town
    • Nearby Campsites:
      • Atwell Mill Campground
      • Cold Springs Campground

Kings Canyon National Park Visitor Center:

  • Cedar Grove Visitor Center

    • Closed for the winter
    • Nearest Town: Cedar Grove
    • Nearby Campsites:
      • Sentinel Campground
      • Sheep Creek Campground
      • Moraine Campground
      • Canyon View Campground
  • Kings Canyon Visitor Center

    • Open Year Around
    • Nearest Town: Grant Grove
    • Nearby Campsites:
      • Azalea Campground
      • Sunset Campground
      • Crystal Springs Campground
Camping breakfast

Camping breakfast

Camping Breakfast

Camping Breakfast

 

Hotels, Accommodation, Cabins & Lodging:

There are lot of options for hotels outside the national parks. Hotels closer to the park may close for winter due to snow.

    • Mineral King
    • Cedar Grove
    • Grant Grove
    • Three Rivers
    • Fresno
    • Lemon Cove 
    • Visalia
  • Cabins & Lodges:

    • Inside the parks, there are lodges available. And they do get booked out in advance. Check here for details.
  • Airbnb:

Another popular option these days as you plan your trip to the national parks. 

Things to do at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:

First thing to keep in mind while visiting Sequoia and Kings National Parks are, its a BEAR country. National Parks Service has given a detailed description of what to expect and how to store food. 

 

Moro Rock

Moro Rock

Photo Source: Wikipedia

 

 

A must do 0.4 mile short hike from Giant Forest Museum Parking Lot. If you only do on thing in the park, this is it. The view is well worth the steep climb. If possible go when there is some snow on the trail. This will guarantee a view of snow peaks in the surroundings. 

 

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia Sunset

Sequoia Sunset

 

 

 

Visit the largest (by volume) living tree in the world called General Sherman Tree.  Visit park website for the history.

 

Scenic Byway

 

 

 

This is the road that takes you from Fresno to Cedar Grove. This is the only way to get to Kings Canyon National Park. As you are driving through this 50-mile section in the summer, don’t forget to appreciate the fact that you are in one of the deepest canyons in Sierra Nevada.  In the winter, sections of the drive may be closed. Visit the National Park website for road-closures. 

10 Best Day Hikes

Suggestions based on the trails we have hiked. I am sure there are other trails in the area that are equally worth exploring.

We generally stop by at the Visitor center to get a sense of what trails are good at the time of the visit. Depending on the season, there might be trail closures in the winter in particular. Similarly, in the Spring time, we have discovered beautiful trails with flowers that we didn’t know about until we asked the rangers. So, do ask the rangers for their personal favorites.

 

5 Best Kings Canyon Hiking Trails:

    • The Giant Tree Trail – Distance: 1 Mile loop, flat trail. View: Large Trees
    • Redwood Canyon Hart Tree Loop – Distance: 7.5 miles. Elevation Gain: 850 feet. View: Large Trees
    • Big Baldy Trail – Distance: 4.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 600 feet. View: Panoramic view of Redwood Canyon.
    • Mist Falls Trail – Distance: 9 miles. Elevation Gain: 600 feet. View: Water Falls.

5 Best Sequoia National Park Hiking Trails:

    • Big Trees Trail – Distance: 1.2 miles. Elevation Gain: 60 ft. View: Trees and meadow. Accessible.
    • Congress Trail – Distance: 2 miles. Elevation Gain: 200 ft. View: Giant Sequoia Grove.
    • Marble Falls Trail – Distance: 7.4 miles. Elevation Gain: 1600 ft. View: Water Fall and wild flowers
    • Moro Rock Distance: 0.4 miles. Elevation Gain: 300 ft. View:Panoramic view
    • North Grove Trail Distance: 1.5 miles. Elevation Gain: 350 ft. View: Sequoia Trees.

Backpacking

 

 

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are known for some really breath taking and stunning backpacking options. One such popular and hard to get permit trip is Rae Lake loop. We are yet to get lucky to get the permit. I have been applying for the past three years. Sigh…

Jennie Lake wilderness has some backpacking options such as hike to Jennie lake that doesn’t require permit. Here is a complete list of all the backpacking options and the permit requirements. 

Winter Activities

Kings Canyon Snow

 

 

    • Go on a ranger-led snowshoe hike
    • Hike up the mountains to stay at Pear Lake Winter Hut at 9200 ft elevation. Book ahead.
    • Explore the park with your cross country skiis on your own.
    • Overnight trips require permit.

 

 

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

 

You might find How to Plan your National Parks Trip useful.

Have you been to either one of these parks ? What are your favorite hikes ?